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Swansea scientists track jellyfish with GPS

Credit: Gower Coast Adventures

Two Swansea University academics have been tracking jellyfish with GPS equipment.

They are trying to explain how the creatures are able to form blooms including hundreds to millions of individuals for periods up to several months.

Biosciences Professor Graeme Hays says jellyfish might look like mere drifters, but some of them have a remarkable ability to detect the direction of ocean currents and to swim strongly against them.

Detecting ocean currents without fixed visual reference points is thought to be close to impossible and is not seen, for example, in lots of migrating vertebrates including birds and turtles.

– Professor Graeme Hays, Swansea University

Professor Hays along with his Swansea University colleague Dr Sabrina Fossette tracked the movements of the jellyfish with GPS loggers and used GPS-tracked floats to record the current flows. They also directly observed the swimming direction of large numbers of jellyfish at the surface of the ocean.

They say understanding the distribution of jellyfish in the open ocean may be practically useful for predicting and avoiding troublesome jellyfish blooms, especially if it turns out that the findings in barrel-jellyfish apply to other species.

While jellyfish do play an important role in ocean ecosystems as prey for leatherback sea turtles and other animals they can also clog fishing nets and sting beachgoers.

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Blue plaque for Swansea scientist

Sir William Grove died in 1896

A Swansea scientist who invented the fuel cell will today be honoured when a blue plaque is unveiled in his home city.

The fuel cell, which converts chemical energy into electrical energy, powers much modern day equipment. Nasa uses them for satellites and spacecraft.

Grove, a founder of the Swansea Literary and Philosophical Society, was born in Swansea in 1811. A graduate of Oxford University, he also became a QC in 1853 and was knighted in 1872.

The plaque will be placed outside divisional police headquarters on Grove Place - the spot where Grove lived in a house called The Laurels during his time in Swansea.

Sir William was an intellectual heavyweight who maintained close links with Swansea right up until his death. We're rightly proud to call him one of our city's most accomplished sons.

– Cllr Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Regeneration

'Dramatic' comeback for rare butterfly

Credit: Andy Seeley

Conservationists say one of Wales’ rarest butterflies is making a comeback in Carmarthenshire.

The wildlife charity, Butterfly Conservation, says it's been working to stabilise numbers of the internationally threatened Marsh Fritillary by increasing and improving habitat areas.

The work has paid off with experts reporting a dramatic increase in numbers in Carmarthenshire.

Since the mid 2000’s the Marsh Fritillary has struggled here. But site conservation work by ourselves and partner organisations, combined with improved weather during the butterfly’s flight period, has meant numbers are stabilising and on some sites we have seen a spectacular recovery.

– Russel Hobson, Head of Butterfly Conservation Wales

The International Space Station or Santa's sleigh? How to spot it in Wales

The International Space Station is due to pass over the UK on Christmas Eve, giving children a great opportunity to spot 'Santa's sleigh'.

The station will be visible at 5.22pm across the UK, but for varying lengths of time and at slightly differing angles.

The further north you are, the closer to the horizon it will be.

The International Space Station Credit: PA

Here is a guide on how long you will be able to see the ISS and where you can spot it in the sky (90 degrees is directly above you).

  • Aberystwyth: 4 minutes, at 46 degrees, 36 above WSW
  • Cardiff: 4 minutes, at 53 degrees, 32 above W
  • Denbigh: 4 minutes, at 39° degrees, 32 above WSW
  • Holyhead: 3 minutes, at 40 degrees, 37 above SW
  • Llandudno: 3 minutes, at 38 degrees, 36 above SW
  • Swansea: 4 minutes, at 53 degrees, 32 above W
  • Wrexham: 4 minutes, at 39 degrees, 33 above WSW

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Swansea University helps Bili the chimp

Bili is around 33 years old. Credit: Swansea University

Researchers from Swansea Universities have stepped in to help a chimpanzee from a local sanctuary, who was suffering from a swollen jaw, after his keepers highlighted his plight.

Clinical imaging staff at the College of Medicine learned from Jan and Graham Garen, the owners of Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Abercrave, that Bili, an ex-circus Chimpanzee has been suffering with a swollen jaw for several months and was in need of a diagnosis.

Bili came to Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in September 2011 and keepers say he's a calm and friendly chimp that settled quickly with other chimpanzees but is more sociable with people.

The veterinary surgeons that were caring for Bili had carried out various tests but lab reports showed nothing conclusive. A closer look was needed and so his keepers approached Swansea University for help.

Using specialist imaging equipment, the team identified Bili’s problem was due to a thickening of his jaw and overlying swelling of his facial muscles. This is likely to be from an abscess of his wisdom tooth.

Following the radiological diagnosis, Bili’s veterinary surgeons and keepers can treat the infection with long term antibiotics to try to initiate a healing process. Albeit it seems Bili is not keen on taking tablets despite the keepers’ best attempts to disguise tablets in various foods.

‘It was a unique humanitarian opportunity for our staff who were delighted to have helped Bili and we hope that he gets better and can enjoy the rest of his retirement in comfort at the sanctuary.’

– Dr Rhodri M Evans, College of Medicine

We are very grateful to the staff at Swansea University for their expertise and their compassion in unhesitatingly offering help to Bili. Thank goodness there is a facility locally in Wales that could help Bili.’

– Graham Garen Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary

Long term shift work 'linked to impaired brain power'

Researchers studied more than 3000 shift workers. Credit: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/PA Images

Long term shift work could be linked to impaired brain power, according to a study carried out by scientists from Swansea University and other European Universities.

They say shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt the body’s internal clock and it has been linked to a range of health problems, like ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and some cancers.

But little is known about its potential impact on brain functions, like memory and processing speed.

The study published in ‘Occupational & Environmental Medicine’ suggests the impact seems to be most noticeable over a period of 10 or more years, and although the effects can be reversed, this may take at least five years.

“The study shows the long term effects of shift work on the body clock are not only harmful to workers’ physical health, but also affect their mental abilities. Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers and the society that they serve, as well as for shift workers’ quality of life.”

– Dr Philip Tucker, Professor of Psychology, Swansea University

Welsh glaciologists to study huge Antarctic lakes

Scientists will drill deep into the ice shelf. Credit: Prifysgol Aberystwyth University

Glaciologists from Aberystwyth University will fly to Antarctica at the beginning of November to study large lakes forming on the surface of ice shelves.

Professor Bryn Hubbard and Dr David Ashmore from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences’ Centre for Glaciology will be working with collaborators from Swansea University on the Larsen C ice shelf.

Larsen C covers an area two and a half times the size of Wales

It's a long, fringing ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, extending along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Professor Hubbard and Dr Ashmore will be using hot water to drill up to 150m down into the 200m deep ice shelf to study the many layers of ice that make up Larsen C.

The ice shelf is significant for scientists trying to understand the effects of climate change on Antarctica.

Two other ice shelves in the area, Larsen A and B, have broken up and disappeared since 1995 and scientists have been trying to understand why.

“Despite its accessibility, this region of Antarctica is surprisingly poorly known on the ground. Dark patches on satellite images appear each summer and these are interpreted as large surface melt ponds, but no one has actually studied them on the ground; to date we don’t even have a photograph of the lakes we believe we will see on Larsen C.

– Professor Bryn Hubbard Aberystwyth University
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